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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

262                    THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM               CHAP.
•
fairly prosperous native population which shows no li$es of social cleavage that are not being constantly crossed, and whose interests are more universally bound up with one sole great industry, viz., agriculture, tkan any single province in India. On the other hand, it was rendered more difficult by the presence of large foreign communities who control directly or indirectly the greater part of the economic life of Egypt and by virtue of ancient treaties can in many respects restrict and hamper the operation of the laws of the country which tkey do not choose to accept so long as the Capitulations remain in force. Therefore in determining the limits within which, subject to a larger or lesser measure of British advice and guidance, responsible government, hitherto unknown in Egypt, can be safely introduced, the Commission knew that it would be necessary to reckon, not only with the aspiration^ and the capacity of the Egyptians themselves and with our own special interests in one of the great highways of our Empire, but also with the effect likely to be produced upon foreign Powers, whose consent must ultimately be obtained to some very substantial relaxation of the onerous treaty rights they can at present exercise.
Moreover, when we undertook to legislate for a definite transfer of power and responsibility to Indians, we knew exactly where we were, for there was no room for any doubt as to where power and responsibility had hitherto lain. They were clearly and definitely vested in the British paramount power, which alone exercised executive authority. It was therefore a straightforward question of devolution as well as of decentralisation. In Egypt, we have never professed to rule or even to govern, but merely to play the part of vigilant advisers, though our advice was frequently transformed into a command. Assuming that British control was to be maintained, the task in front of the Milner Commission was to put our own house in order, to unravel the tangled texture of confused powers and responsibilities into which the executive authority vested in the Egyptian Government alone anday be doubted—especially in o particular case which Egyptian public opinion, rightly that Egypt' wan quit** unripe for such democratic